The information provided is general in nature and DLGSC encourages local governments to consider the information when developing a policy suitable for their organisation.
For consistency and transparency, it is recommended that local governments adopt a policy in relation to dealing with requests for electronic attendance at meetings and the expectations of council in relation to equipment and location. The policy should deal with the following:
In addition, the local government should also include in the policy the decision-making procedures for matters relating to the holding of meetings conducted by electronic means.
A person may only attend an in-person meeting if they have been authorised to do so by either the mayor, shire president, or council.
As part of their policy, a local government should consider the process for dealing with requests for remote attendance.
For example, where possible a person may be required to provide a request to council to attend remotely. However, where this may not be possible, because the request has to be made at short notice, the person may provide a request to attend remotely to the mayor or shire president.
Council and committee members may need to travel for their work or care for loved ones when they are unwell, at times this may affect their ability to attend a meeting in-person. The intent of this amendment is to provide increased flexibility for council and committee members in meeting their obligations to attend meetings, this will also assist local governments in achieving meeting quorums.
A local government should account for other logistical requirements as part of their policy. This includes who is responsible for notifying the administration of an authorisation for remote attendance, and the provision of an electronic meeting invite to the attendee. A local government may also require that requests are made in writing (via email) for the purposes of records keeping and monitoring the 50% cap.
Previously under regulation 14A of the Local Government (Administration) Amendment Regulations 1996 the key requirements associated with a person’s attendance included:
These express requirements have been removed with the repeal of regulation 14A. However, council will be required to consider the location from which a person intends to attend the meeting with respect to their ability to effectively engage in deliberations and communications during the meeting.
In authorising a person’s remote attendance, the local government may require that a person attending remotely must do so from a location that is quiet and private. For example, a private room in their house. If there will be other people at the location at the time of the meeting, council may require that the room has a door that can be closed during the meeting, and request that the person wear headphones if appropriate.
Regulation 14CA(2) provides that the mayor, shire president, or council may determine the electronic means that a person may use to attend a council or committee meeting. Council should resolve to adopt the preferred electronic means for remote attendance. For example, council may elect to use Microsoft Teams as their preferred electronic communication means.
In deciding whether to authorise a person’s remote attendance, the mayor, shire president, or council (the authorising authority) must also consider whether the person’s equipment will support council’s preferred choice of electronic communication.
A person may only attend a meeting remotely by electronic means, provided they have not attended more than half of all council meetings in the previous 12 months by this method. The 50% attendance cap ensures that elected members and committee members attend at least half of all meetings conducted over a 12 month period, in person. Council should resolve to adopt a method to record and monitor an individual’s attendance to ensure they do not exceed the 50% cap. Council should record a person’s remote attendance in the meeting minutes to ensure appropriate records keeping. A spreadsheet for the purposes of monitoring electronic attendance is also recommended.
Consistent with the provisions that require the authorising authority to consider a person’s intended location and equipment for remote attendance at in-person meetings, council must also consider these factors when deciding to conduct an electronic meeting. Council is still required to consult the CEO as part of the decision-making process for holding an electronic meeting.
A key difference between the requirements for authorising an electronic meeting during, or outside of an emergency is that only council may authorise meetings that are conducted outside of an emergency. As part of the local government’s policy, council may consider and agree to the circumstances that may be appropriate to require an electronic meeting. For example, a wheatbelt shire may decide to hold an electronic meeting during harvest time to reduce the need for travel time. The reasons for deciding to conduct an electronic meeting outside of an emergency may be specific to the local government area.
Local governments must also consider their obligation to provide public notice of meetings under regulation 12 of the Admin Regs and changes to meeting dates as soon as practicable. For example, if a local government elects to change an in-person meeting to an electronic meeting they must provide appropriate public notice of this fact.
A local government should record the number of electronic meetings conducted to ensure appropriate records keeping. A spreadsheet for the purposes of monitoring the quota threshold is also recommended.
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